"Gulliver's Travels" tests Jack Black's appeal

Thu Dec 23, 2010 7:58pm EST
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By Pamela McClintock

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - In the U.S., 20th Century Fox is selling the feature film "Gulliver's Travels" as a Jack Black comedy.

Overseas, where Jonathan Swift's classic tome is far more familiar, the film is being sold on the story.

So which is it? And is Black a big enough movie star to carry the day? Is his particular brand of humor right for the character Lemuel Gulliver?

Fox will find out as Gulliver's, rated PG, opens December 25 in 2,546 theaters in the U.S. The 3D family adventure is also making a major push overseas.

The bad news is that Black's last live-action film, "Year One," didn't work. Opening in summer 2009, "Year One" stalled out at $43 million domestically and $19 million overseas.

The good news is that Black has great brand awareness among kids. He's the voice star of the "Kung Fu Panda" franchise, and widely promoted the first film in 2008. He's currently preparing for the release of the sequel in May.

Black's signature live-action film was sleeper hit "School of Rock," which over performed in grossing $81.2 million for Paramount in 2003.

"Gulliver's" has several distinct challenges. Tracking has been sluggish, sparking real concern on the Fox lot. Boys and teenage boys are showing the most interest, but Fox needs to get all members of the family if the film is to work.   Continued...

<p>Cast member Jack Black poses at the premiere of "Gulliver's Travels" at the Grauman's Chinese theatre in Hollywood, California December 18, 2010. The movie opens in the U.S. on December 25. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>